If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1959


What did you hope to accomplish by appearing on a TV commercial that you could not accomplish some other way?

I am getting older and may not be able to travel as much as I have in the past. I like to keep in touch with people, and one reaches large numbers by radio and TV. My agent had found that most people considered me too controversial to advertise anything profitably, and so when an offer to do a commercial came, I felt that unless I did it, we would never know whether I had any commercial value on the air. I do not yet know whether it was a wise or an unwise thing to do, but I thought it worth a trial.


All the etiquette books say a widow should continue to use her husband's name. I notice that the newspapers always call you "Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt" instead of "Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt." Is this because you prefer to use your own first name?

No. I much prefer Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, but it seems many people find it easier to say Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.


Most of the people I know have been shocked to find out how many congressmen put their relatives on their payrolls. Wouldn't it be wise to pass a law forbidding members of Congress to hire members of their immediate families?

To have on the payroll members of one's family who are not doing the work or are not able to do the work is wrong. But to employ a member of one's family who is able to do the work and is of special service because of being a member of the family makes sense; to forbid it by law would be foolish. What should be done is to insist that there be justification for every individual on the payroll. Then there would be no padding of payrolls or hiring of inefficient or unnecessary members of the family.


On your trips abroad, what do you miss most?

What I miss of my own environment depends on where I am traveling and the company I have. There are areas of the world where I miss, above everything else, the feeling of independence and freedom I have at home. There are other places where I miss the health conditions we take for granted in the United States. Truthfully, when I travel in other countries, I don't dwell on the things I miss back home. I am too much interested in learning about the ways of the country, in finding out what it has to offer, and in adjusting myself to new ways of life that are interesting and amusing. But when I travel, I do miss people at home, and in spite of all the interest, I am glad to get back to the people I love.


Do you think teachers should be allowed to use physical measures and corporal punishment to restrain or discipline unruly students?

No[,] I don't. However, they should be allowed to report a student to the superintendent; and under proper restrictions, the superintendent might well be authorized to use corporal punishment in limited ways.


So many women seem to have trouble with their mothers-in-law. Do you think it is an especially difficult relationship?

A great many difficulties seem to arise in this particular relationship. Some of the problem is perhaps possessiveness on the part of the mother or the wife; some of it is lack of tact on the husband's part. There should be realization on the mother's part that she has to make a new friend and have a desire to make life easy for her son.


I would like to have a record of one of your husband's speeches. Can you tell me whether any records are available?

A great many are. If you can't find them at your record shop, I would ask F.D.R. Memorial Library at Hyde Park, New York.


Are American women better dressed than the women you see in most other parts of the world?

No. American women are very well dressed; but if you are comparing them with western Europeans, I think women in France and Italy, even Austria, dress as well as—in some ways, perhaps better than—American women.


Do you spend all your time doing worthwhile things for others? Isn't it all right sometimes to do things just for fun?

Why, I think everybody does things just for fun! It never occurs to me that I am doing "worthwhile things for others." Most of the time I am doing things because I enjoy doing them.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1959

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

McCall's, volume 86, July 1959

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
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